Simon Gerrans’ stage victory at the Tour of Spain only brings to lightsomething that has been on the table for years but keeps falling off,writes Anthony Tan.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

Missing out on a Tour de France berth may
have been a good thing for Simon Gerrans, for the 2009 season has
quickly turned out to be his annus mirabilis.

Look past
his baby face and saccharine smile, and there lurks arguably
Australia's best one-day rider of his generation, who, at 29 years old,
is entering the prime of his professional cycling life. The best is
still Phil Anderson, and in that sense it's apt, for the reverential
Anderson was Gerrans' mentor in his early years.

Top-ten
placings in the three Ardennes classics РAmstel Gold, Fl̬che Wallonne
and Li̬ge-Bastogne-Li̬ge Рfollowed by a stage win at this year's Giro
d'Italia led all and sundry to believe we'd see Gerrans flying the flag
at this year's Tour de France, supporting defending champion Carlos
Sastre and the team's sprinter Thor Hushovd.

Incredulously, the Monaco resident found himself watching on the sidelines. How his Cervélo TestTeam must rue that decision now.

Clearly,
the shock omission only added fuel to the fire burning inside the belly
of Gerrans, who since then, has won his first major classic, the GP
Ouest-France in Plouay a tad over two weeks ago, then confirmed his
rise to stardom by triumphing on Stage 10 of the Vuelta a España.

Look at how he won his three grand tour stage wins, becoming the first Australian to do so.

The
stage to Prato Nevoso at the 2008 Tour finished atop an 11.4-kilometre
climb; this year's Giro leg to Bologna also ended with a summit finish,
but was only 2.1-km in length; and the Vuelta stage had a sub-four-km
climb that topped out 11-km from the finish in Murcia, which provided
the springboard for victory.


All were won deep into the race (stages fifteen, fourteen and ten,
respectively) and each time, Gerrans won from a small breakaway, which
not just demonstrates versatility, but finishing speed, strength in the
finale, and cunning.


Combine likely equal leaders Stuart O'Grady, Allan Davis and Cadel
Evans into the mix, and Australia may well witness their first world
road champion on September 27 in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

A
leg-sapping 262 kilometres in length and coupled with a mammoth 4,655
metres' vertical gain – equivalent to three Alpine passes at the Tour
de France – the insidious road will undoubtedly determine who in this
heady quartet four has the legs to go the nineteen laps required.

It's a pity that's the only time you'll see nine Aussies racing as one.

That
Gerrans – along with Mathew Hayman and Chris Sutton – signed with
British-backed Team Sky leaves me feeling bittersweet. No doubt, it's
going to be a kick-ass squad with loads of moolah, leading-edge
equipment, and some of the best sport-directors in the biz, one of whom
is an Australian, Scott Sunderland.

But shouldn't we be
heralding the birth of Australia's first Tour de France squad? Is this
not the next logical step for Australian cycling?

"I'd be very
disappointed if it didn't happen in the next couple of years," O'Grady
told me in a phone interview prior the start of the Vuelta.

"We
basically need a big company to come on board who's interested in the
Tour de France. We've got such a great pool of talent; we've got such a
wide variety of riders.

"And I think once they see the return
they make on the Tour de France, then they're probably asking
themselves why they didn't do it ten years ago. But hopefully it will
happen sooner rather than later," said O'Grady.

It's time to
raise this issue once again, get Australian investors interested,
motivated and committed, and get an all-Aussie team to the Tour de
France. The time is now.